Day #295: Clock Tower

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Clock Tower was requested by one of my fine patrons.

I’ll be honest, I was kind of dreading this one. Though the original Super NES Clock Tower is a game I look back on rather fondly, it had been a while since I’d revisited the Playstation sequel, also called Clock Tower since it was the first one distributed to a Western audience.

I’ve made it a point to touch upon a lot of the forebears of the horror genre this month, with Alone in the Dark last week and Sweet Home upcoming, but Clock Tower exists in a weird middle space, not successful or well known enough to have been a significant influence on the games that followed. It’s unfortunate, albeit completely understandable. Point and click was a tough sell for a console game, which is likely a good reason we never got the SNES original. In a way, it feels like the PSX game was designed almost as a remake, a way to introduce players to the concepts and strengths of the series, but with the addition of 3D, as was Sony’s mandate at the time.

The results are a bit mixed, though I will admit that I enjoyed myself a lot more than I thought I would. Clock Tower wasn’t particularly well received when it came out, but part of that had to do with just how many rules it and it’s predecessor broke. Horror still wasn’t something regularly explored beyond the pure aesthetic level. Titles like Splatterhouse were still action games at their core, never even attempting any pretense that fear was the goal. Putting you in control of a weak character that didn’t have the ability to vanquish their enemy was still a difficult thing to grasp, which is why it, ironically, is easier to enjoy now. Horror as a concept has been explored to death, but because of Clock Tower’s relative obscurity, no one ever attempted to copy it, and thus, its ideas are still novel.

It’s a very deliberately paced game, though the seemingly random intervals in which the Scissorman appears make for an underlying tension that feels inescapable. Even if you simply spend too much time in one place, the game will summon him (and his appropriate theme) to hurry you along.

The lack of direct control, while awkward at first, lends a feeling of detachment to the characters. While this may sound like a bad thing, it actually serves to make the game feel more cinematic, in a way. You’re watching this cast of characters run from a crazed killer, at times seeming to have the same lack of power over their fate than a moviegoer yelling at a screen. While the original was a blatant love letter to Argento, the Playstation game is more like an endearing B-movie. It is early-gen Playstation, so it’s ugly as sin and the voice acting is… unfortunate, but it still works in its own odd way. Keeping a mostly 2D perspective meant the game was still able to function similar enough to the original, while also avoiding the camera problem that the extra dimension introduced (and that we still have problems will to this day).

The end result still manages to be a fairly tense romp through an ever changing slasher movie; a little bit different every time you play it. Do I prefer the original? Yeah, for sheer artistry and replayability, it’s hard to top, but the fact that this version was still able to surprise me should count for something.

At least this time the Scissorman wasn’t an 11 year old boy named Bob.

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